The cost effectiveness of Australian tenancy support programs for formerly homeless people

Kaylene Zaretzky, Paul Flatau

Research output: Book/ReportOther output


Key Points: → The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), introduced in 2009 as a joint Commonwealth/state and territory initiative to address homelessness in Australia, included a number of programs aimed at supporting homeless people access and sustain housing as well support those in housing maintain their tenancies when at high risk of homelessness. → The available evidence suggests that NPAH programs, aimed at supporting homeless clients and those at risk of homelessness access and maintain a social housing tenancy or maintain existing tenancies at risk of homelessness, were successful in assisting households to sustain their tenancy and prevent eviction. → NPAH tenancy support programs reported tenancy sustainability rates between 80.9 per cent and 92.3 per cent, depending on the program and year under examination. Correspondingly, the proportion of evictions/vacant possessions was low: ranging from 0.3 per cent to 3.4 per cent of tenancies. Rates of transfer to another housing circumstance ranged from 7.5 per cent to 17.4 per cent. → Clients of NPAH programs were more likely to sustain tenancies with support than if they had not received program support. → NPAH programs aimed at supporting people to access and sustain public and community housing were successful in reducing homelessness. At the commencement of support in such programs, 33.7 per cent of presenting unit heads (PUHs) were homeless, 36.3 per cent in public and community housing, 6.2 per cent were living in institutional settings with the remainder in other housing circumstances (including 'not stated'). At the close of support, only 2.1 per cent were homeless, 0.4 per cent were in institutional settings and the proportion of PUHs living in public or community housing had increased to 87.6 per cent. → Cost savings to government from avoiding eviction events are significant. A finding of high rates of tenancy sustainability and low rates of eviction of tenants supports the economic case for such programs. → The cost of support programs during 2011-V13 across all program types was estimated at $23/day of support, with a mean cost of $4260/support period and a median cost of $3492/support period. However, the cost of support varied significantly across programs, reflecting the intensity of support and duration. → The total net cost of social housing, including the opportunity cost of capital employed and subtracting rental receipts, was estimated at $20 385/dwelling. The average cost per eviction event estimated across the ACT, Tasmania, Victoria and WA, was $8814/event, representing a significant savings opportunity to government for each eviction avoided. The main direct savings to government arising from sustaining tenancies is reduced cost of homelessness (in health and justice areas in particular), shown in previous studies undertaken by the authors to be, on an annual basis, approximately double the eviction cost cited on average per homeless person. → Lack of available public and community housing dwellings limits the ability of tenancy support programs to house homeless clients. Context: The National Agreement on Housing Affordability (NAHA) and National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) were introduced in 2009 as part of an increased focus on addressing homelessness in Australia. Programs introduced under the NPAH emphasised the goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness through early intervention and prevention programs and by strengthening the provision of services aimed at supporting homeless clients' ability to access and sustain housing. This report provides an Australia-wide review of NPAH programs which assist clients to access and maintain a social housing tenancy or support existing social housing tenants at risk of homelessness maintain their tenancies. The report examines the background of presenting units supported by the programs, the support provided, and the housing outcomes achieved. It also examines the cost of providing support and the cost of capital employed in providing social housing. The NPAH programs covered in the report include: → General homelessness support to access/maintain a social housing tenancy (including programs to assist women and children escaping domestic violence). → Support to help Indigenous people access/maintain a social housing tenancy. → Support to help young people access/maintain a social housing tenancy. → Transition from an institutional setting into social housing. → Street-to-home or Common Ground support for rough sleepers. → Support for existing social housing tenants to maintain an at risk tenancy. → Supported accommodation for young people using a Youth Foyer model. This report is the first of two examining the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these programs. The second report will delve in detail on programs operating in Western Australia examining longer-term client outcomes and the wider benefits of these programs using linked administrative data together with a one-off survey of tenants. While NPAH programs have been the subject of evaluations in states and territories, such evaluations have not provided Australian policy-makers with sufficiently strong Australia-wide evidence to assess the cost-effectiveness of tenancy support programs. The present study, therefore, plugs a significant gap in the literature. Research method: This study considers the effectiveness and provides insight into the question of costeffectiveness of NPAH funded tenancy sustainability programs. For the first time in Australia, the study addresses the issue of the cost-effectiveness of tenancy access and support programs for homeless people by bringing together, at one point, evidence from both the homelessness support system and the housing system to assess whether support programs do work to sustain tenancies. Data are drawn from both the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC), and from government administrative data sourced from the lead NPAH agencies in each jurisdiction using our own specially designed survey: Survey of National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) lead agencies: NPAH Supported Social Tenancy Programs (hereafter the Jurisdiction Survey). The AIHW SHSC provides information on all clients of specialist homelessness services including those funded under NPAH. Across all jurisdictions, 49 separate NPAH programs were identified as having a significant component of the program related to support for clients to access/maintain a social housing tenancy. Of the identified programs, 38 programs had provided data to the SHSC in 2011-13. Of these programs, six were tasked to maintain existing social housing tenancies. Clients of these six programs accounted for 76 per cent of all presenting units identified in SHSC data as being assisted to access/maintain a social housing tenancy. At commencement of support, 78.4 per cent of all presenting units across all program types were classified as at risk of homelessness. It is not possible to say whether these people have been homeless in the past. The Jurisdiction Survey had two parts: → Part 1 examined costs incurred by government in the provision of social housing, including recurrent and capital cost and the cost of evictions. → Part 2 examined program specific issues, including program governance and scope, availability of housing, program cost and tenancy outcomes where they were available. Key Findings: Availability of dwellings as a limitation for programs; Very few homelessness programs that were examined had specifically allocated dwellings, even in the case of programs whose primary goal was access to housing. Dwellings specifically allocated were predominately for long-term supportive housing, both for general homelessness support to access/maintain a social housing dwelling and for Youth Foyer programs. This is problematic as the lack of available public and community housing dwellings limits the ability of programs to house clients. Most programs have either no specified limit on the duration of support or offer a comparatively long support period of 12 months or more.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne, Australia
PublisherAustralian Housing and Urban Research Institute
ISBN (Print)18347223
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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